ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — October’s introduction brings colder weather, newly-shaded leaves and most importantly; fall activities.
Majority of Rochester residents are returning to fall-themed venues for the first time since 2019 — but the pandemic is making it difficult for places such as apple-orchards, pumpkin farms and haunted hayrides to maintain their staff.
Staffing shortages are not a new trend since COVID-19’s outbreak. Similar to other businesses, venues who see the biggest spike in business this time of year are struggling to keep up.
Those who do decide to savor in fall festivities are welcoming the return of fall venues.
“With last year being shut down, we’re just excited to be out here,” Rochester resident Stephanie Lydell said.
According to Evan Schutt, owner of Schutt’s Apple Mill in Penfield, business is good.
Despite lines of customer cars lining nearby roadways, Schutt says hiring enough staff has proven to be a challenge.
“Biggest problem is staff not just getting staff but making sure they’re well educated prepared they feel confident in the job,” Schutt said. “I think it’s going to be a struggle, we are a small family business.”
VerHulst Farms in Spencerport is experiencing the same problem with their daytime activities and nighttime haunted hayrides.
“We are not special, the entire world is short staffed,” Owner Jo Ann VerHulst said.
Hayrides at VerHulst Farms are back for the first time in over a year. Course time may be limited however, as finding a dedicated operator is becoming increasingly difficult.
Employees are often left to juggle two different roles due to short staffing, in most cases without enough time to do so.
“Majority of haunted nighttime hayride has full time jobs they can’t come out here with thousands of people and subject them to breakthrough COVID-19,” Jo Ann VerHulst said.
The question is, will the shortage of workers let up?
“We’re cautiously optimistic, I’m gonna say we’re cautiously optimistic,” Jo Ann VerHulst said.
Common reasons behind short staffing are fear of contracting COVID-19 or longtime employees who left and found other work during the early stages of the pandemic.
Another issue faced by fall-themed businesses is the current price tag of apples. There’s been a short apple crop this year, causing a pricier season.